I prefer to stay out of the thick of things in terms of political intrigue. If you offer an opinion on how things will be or should be, all too often you are wrong. But as a student of constitutional law – a REAL student of constitutional law – I am greatly disturbed by the noise that is wafting from the White House these days. POTUS has declared that he has an unlimited capacity to pardon himself and his family for offences against the United States. And that declaration raises Constitutional issues that cannot be ignored. The real problem, as the greatest Constitutional scholar of our times has often declared, is that our Constitution is painfully detailed about issues that matter very little to the Republic, and painfully obtuse as to issues that define the very essence of our democracy.
If a President can pardon himself or those closest to him with no oversight or consequence, what could stop him or his family from committing a flagrant and unprosecutable murder, or, in this case, possible treason against his country? In a nation that more than any other defines the boundaries of human conduct by a reliance on the rule of law, how can we accept the concept that one man (or woman) is above the law. That one man is a law unto himself. We fought the Revolution to throw off the cloak of imperial obeisance, and it should be clear that our Founding Fathers never contemplated that the President of this Republic would ever place himself beyond the rules that bind us all together. And yet this President has clearly indicated a willingness to do just that.
We can all hope that this is all just blustering. Just posturing. That this nation will never have to face the heart rending possibility that our Commander in Chief has elevated himself to Caesar. This is an issue that our own Constitution in all its flaws has never foreseen, has never anticipated. We can all only hope that the long tradition that held President Clinton in check, that allowed General Haig to forestall President Nixon’s access to the nuclear launch codes, serves us once again. And, regardless of where you or any other person stands in this great political stalemate, we can all only hope that truth and justice continues to reign over our great country.